My last blog entry (here) was about a lesson that did not go as well as I had hoped. The students were disengaged and my frustration level was as high as it had been all year. I realized that my poor planning was the root of the problem for that lesson. Well, today I had those same students for another session of information processing. I kept that lesson learned well in hand as I planned for today's activity. The work was much more rigorous and as a result the students were on task and much more collaborative. There was a great "vibe" in the room as students were commenting on each others' blogs. It was great to hear comments like, "oh, I like that too" or "cool" or "hey, I went there too!" Along with the encouraging comments was the sound of laughter in the room, a sound that was missing last week.
I firmly believe that students will work to the bar we set. If we want quality products from our students we need to ask them to produce such work. That being said, it is not enough to simply ask for the work, we need to show them what we consider to be a high level product.
This recent lesson caused me to reflect on how I lead at my school. As part of the administrative team we have a vision for how learning occurs in our building. We feel the days of straight rows and worksheets are a thing of the past. We want our students to work together to solve complex problems, not work alone to find the "right" answers to fill in the blanks. This is what we want, but is it always what we see? Not always. With my information processing students I had not set the bar high enough, and the students simply did what was required. Today I set the bar higher, and in the end everyone seemed happier and much more productive (I don't believe these are mutually exclusive). It is one thing for my admin partner and I to want a highly functioning, collaborative learning environment. It is something completely different to lead in a way that teachers understand what we want to see and know that we will be looking for it as we visit classrooms.
I was able to identify and correct what went wrong in my lesson, but this is hardly unique to classroom teaching or school leadership. When was the last time you stopped to reflect on how a day went and ask yourself why things went the way they did? No matter what we want it's always a matter of planning, executing, reflecting, revising, and of course....following through.
As always, comments are welcome!